"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Crucifixion and resurrection are at the heart of our faith. They're also metaphors that are used often enough that it's easy for them to lose their power. None of us were at Calvary that Friday and none of us have every seen a crucifixion -- but if we had we would understand that it's not a metaphor for difficulty but it is blinding pain and the desolation of death. And none of us were there Sunday morning to find the stone rolled away and the tomb emtpy -- but if we were we would understand that it's not a metaphor for triumph but it is awesome and impossible, wonderful beyond words and yet terrifying.
I think if I were really at the crucifixion and having to write about it, I wouldn't be able to. Ditto for the resurrection. And that tells me a little about yesterday.
It would be easy to talk about Thursday in terms of crucifixion and resurrection. And it would be a useful metaphor -- if not all too easy to use. And there are definitely ways it would be accurate. But still it seems inadequate. We'll see.
First, crucifixion. I didn't witness crucifixion yesterday, but I heard tell. And I saw the aftermath. In the morning, I spent 2 1/2 hours at the National Genocide Museum in Kigali and in the afternoon, I visited the genocide memorial in Bugesera District (where 65% of the population was slaughtered -- the hardest hit district in Rwanda).
And I can't write about it. Maybe in a week, maybe in a month, maybe sometime in the future I'll be able to. But for now I can't. I just can't. Suffice it to say that the genocide hangs over and undergirds everything that happens here. If the genocide is crucifixion and the rebuilding of Rwanda is resurrection, there is no neat dividing line of Holy Saturday. Crucifixion, the blinding pain, the desolation of death continues even as resurrection begins.
And so ... resurrection.
I can write about this part ... which tells me something, too. It's not as in-your-face. In many ways it's more of a hint, a peripheral glance rather than in your face.
Resurrection in Rwanda isn't happening all at once. And in many places it's not happening at all. The unemployment rate is near 70%. Economic growth has been trumpeted and it has been good but so far the benefits have only been felt by the top economic strata (though there is lots of hope it is trickling down because lots of important infrastructure is being built).
But slowly, it is happening in one of the least-likely places. It is happening in Mayange in Bugesera, where the Millennium Village is.
If you've read this blog before, you've heard me talk about the Millennium Village in Mayange. It's an integration of development principles starting with a target group of 1,005 households aimed at meeting all the MDG goals and targets at once. What makes Mayange different from other MVs (and many other programs) is the degree of buy-in of the government (and the comparatively low corruption index of the government), methods of intervention that encourage sustainable development rather than dependency, and a plan to scale the project up beyong the village to the entire country.
Mayange isn't an oasis. It has a long way to go. There is still incredible poverty. There is still malnutrition. Domestic violence is epidemic. There is lots of undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. But there is positive momentum. Something is happening here, and it's incredibly exciting.
I tagged along with Josh and a group from a medical conference for a tour yesterday, and I'm heading back this afternoon. The first stop was the health centre.
The first thing you notice about the health centre is that it's bursting with people. The waiting room is full. There are lines outside the lab, the pharmacy, and many other places. It's not a large complex and they are maxing out the space and need to grow.
This is a good thing. No -- this is a great thing. The centre serves about 500 people a day, and that's great news because it means people are accessing the health care. It also means they are accessing health care earlier on in illness when prevention and early-stage treatment are possible.
One example: The under-five mortality rate is 15 percent in this district. When they got here, they would have 3-4 funerals (mostly of children under five) a week. They haven't had a young child funeral in four months.
Another example: When they first opened the centre, about 80 percent of the patients had malaria. Now that's down to 10 percent -- thanks to an integrated system not just of distributing bednets, but of education, monitoring of use and tying bednet use to availability of other things -- like agricultural interventions (ERD's Nets for Life program is using similar strategies).
The key has been not just fighting disease but working hard to change the health care system. By removing barriers like co-pays and the need to travel long distances and pay fees to have pictures taken for IDs (they now have a mobile webcam and printer that goes to where the people are and takes the pictures for free), they now have the vast majority of the people enrolled in a system where people pay what they can but nobody is denied treatment.
Expensive? Not as much as you might think. The per capita cost for health care in this MV is $25 with fixed costs (staff salaries, electricity, infrastructure) and $8 without fixed costs. That's below MV hoped-for standards and certainly sustainable.
People are getting in, getting treatment and getting better. You can make an argument that health care is more accessible to the entire population in Mayange than in St. Louis!
We then went to one of the fields and heard about the agricultural innovations, like progressive terracing, which uses trench-digging to maximize the ability of rainwater to get to the lower levels of soil and not just run off taking all the nutrients with it. They've planted nitrogen-fixing trees every three meters to help replenish the soil over time.
But the big new thing is a massive fertilizer loan program (I'm headed back for the big celebration of its launch this afternoon).
Other programs (and most, if not all, of the other Millennium Villages) give away the fertilizer, which creates a culture of dependency. The loan program will enable growers to sign up for a loan of fertilizer and maize. At the harvest, they will pay it back in maize or in cash. 70-75 percent of the people have signed up (they were hoping for 30%). And they've tied it to use of progressive terracing and membership in the health care system.
If there is an icon for what is going on in Mayange, it is the children.
That there are children at all is life and light. The genocide was 13 years ago (though massacres began years before that), and our visit was greeted by children much younger than that. Children who are the rising generation of post-genocide Rwanda
There are children at the health center. They are sick, but they're getting treatment.
There are children on the street. They are poor, but they are not hopeless.
Most of all, they are children with dignity. Walking up the street toward Josh's house yesterday morning I was approached by a child asking for money. The children in Mayange don't do this. They don't beg. They smile. They follow us everywhere. They clamor to have their picture taken so they can see themselves. They try to practice their English on you. But they don't bed.
They have dignity. And dignity, more than anything, is the foundation for development not just of an economy but of the identity of a people.
And maybe that's the real resurrection. Rwanda is a nation the West looks on with guilt and pity. It has a horrible past that flows into the present and will flow into the future.
But it is a place of great beauty. And at least in Mayange, it is a place of dignity and pride.
And as much as the shadow of the past is still cast into the present, in those children you can catch a glimpse of the future. A future worth looking forward to.
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."